Today Time Warner Cable began testing metered internet service in Beaumont, Texas. When I first heard about the test, I immediately panned it as a mistake that would result in poor PR and no national change to the limitless internet U.S. broadband subscribers enjoy. I was not alone as most in the Tech world believe this will be a failure. GigOM provides a strong argument on why it will not work, while my favorite sports owner of all time, Mark Cuban, provides an equally compelling argument that works when you look at it from a non-techie or baby boomer perspective. I will come back to this.
Just the other day I noted to a friend that I may be done with cable. I am not a big TV watcher to begin with, and I can get just about everything I do watch on legal sites that provide high quality streams(ie not YouTube). All I need is broadband internet access…that and College Football and the NFL to provide live streams of all their games much like CBS did with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year or Major League Baseball is doing now. It would not be terribly difficult for me to connect a computer to my TV and suddenly have my entire digital world on demand and dropping my most expensive bill in the process. I am just one of the growing number moving in this direction.
The problem of course is Baby Boomers and those who would not adopt the online video trend until forced to. I am thinking specifically about my parents and my sister here. With zero stats on this, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest they make up the majority of cable providers current subscribers. I suspect this group’s download needs would fit nicely into Time Warner Cable’s tiered package (ie low to medium usage at best). This means the majority of cable provider customers would not push back on the change because it would not increase their bill.
My bill would sky rocket and all the benefits of not ordering cable would quickly evaporate. I guess Time Warner Cable is not dumb after all. While this may help prolong ISPs from becoming the commodity my generation views them as, it will decidedly stunt innovation. A possible happy middle ground could be seen with Comcast’s proposed cap, but I think any metering could evolve into a slippery slope that will hurt customers in the end.